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'Refereeing is a very pressurised job, he has a split second to make a decision'

Mayo manager Michael Solan has defended the performance of referee Niall Cullen in yesterday’s EirGrid All-Ireland U21 semi-final victory over Dublin.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

MICHAEL SOLAN DEFENDED the performance of match referee Niall Cullen following Mayo’s thrilling EirGrid All-Ireland U21 football championship semi-final victory over Dublin in Tullamore.

There were worrying scenes at full-time as a spectator emerged from the crowd and appeared to be making his way towards the match official before he was apprehended by stewards.

Mayo were awarded two frees in stoppage time, both converted by Conor Loftus to secure a one-point victory, but the Connacht champions could argue that they were denied a couple earlier in the half.

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

It appeared to be one of those cases where Cullen’s calls balanced themselves out over the hour and Mayo boss Solan had no qualms with the Fermanagh whistler’s display.

“Refereeing is a very pressurised job, he has a split second to make a decision and to see what’s happening,” Solan said.

“In fairness to him, he’d be out there to do an honest job and we wouldn’t question that.”

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Mayo will make their 11th appearance in an EirGrid All-Ireland U21 football final (excluding replays) when they face Cork in the 30 April decider. 

Their record from their previous attempts reads: won four, lost six and in five of their last six final attempts in the competition, the Westerners have finished as runners-up.

Their meeting with the Rebels in less than a fortnight’s time is a repeat of the 2006 decider, won by Mayo by 1-13 to 1-11.

But in 2004, 2001, 1995, 1994 and 1984, Mayo ended up wearing the bridesmaid’s dress as their opponents made off with the prize.

Mayo players celebrate at the final whistle Mayo's players celebrate victory over Dublin. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

There’s a nice symmetry to Mayo’s latest final assignment, however, coming as it does ten years after their last.

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But Solan is paying no heed to history as he plots a way past Cork over the next fortnight.

“Anything that’s gone in the past has no relevance to what’s happening in the future,” he said after Saturday’s semi-final victory over Dublin.

“We’ll just focus for the next two weeks on Cork and prepare ourselves as best we can.”

Mayo led by six points at half-time against the Dubs but had to come from four points down to win by one, as Loftus pinged over those two late frees to seal victory.

Michael Solan Mayo boss Michael Solan. Source: Andrew Paton/INPHO

“We were on the opposite side of that in the Connacht final, a few down and we were able to turn things around,” Solan recalled.

“But you’d always expect a run from a team of the quality of Dublin, that they were always going to have a little bit of a run at you.

“It turned out that way but thankfully we were able to turn the tables back on them and had enough to get ourselves over the line.

“It means a lot to us but the reality is that finals are for winning, no more than today.

“It’s the fourth game of the championship and that’s all we’re going to be concerned about. We’re just going to focus on our preparation and on getting everything right for the next day.”

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